There’s always great excitement surrounding the team’s draft picks this time of year, and, trust me, I’m as excited as anyone to hear about the upcoming successes shown on the practice field and in the pre-season games by defensive players Montez Sweat, Jimmy Moreland, Jordan Brailford and the other 7 draft picks.
But there’s something special about the long-shot Cinderella Men of the summer — the college UDFAs who are trying to keep the hope alive.
Many people are quick to dismiss these undrafted players, but there is a long history of college free agents contributing and even becoming stars in the NFL. Adam Thielen, Tony Romo, Wes Welker, Jason Peters, James Harrison, Rod Smith, Antonio Gates, John Randle, and Kurt Warner are all players who put together high-level careers that put them on our TV screens in this century.
Among the Redskins, one of the greatest NFL players never to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, Joe Jacoby, went undrafted back in the days when the draft lasted 18 rounds. London Fletcher, of course, was not only undrafted, but a small-school player from John-Carroll. Coy Bacon, mentioned in the comments section of the the Mount Rushmore of Redskins Pass Rushers article recently, spent the final 4 years of his 14-year NFL career in burgundy & gold, retiring the year before the NFL began recording sacks as an official statistic. It’s reported that Bacon would have retired with 130 career sacks if anyone had been counting them. Of course, one of the two men who seem to be most likely to take the first offensive snap of the 2019 season, Case Keenum, was an undrafted free agent in 2012.
In recent years, the Redskins seem to find one or two keepers annually from the pool of undrafted free agents. While many of these players simply provide depth and special teams play, some have risen to prominence. Probably the most successful UDFA of the past few seasons has been Quinton Dunbar, who not only had to overcome the undrafted stigma, but also change position from wide receiver to defensive back to earn a roster spot. Cam Sims, Timon Parris, Casey Dunn, J.P. Holtz, Matt Flanagan, Cassanova McKinzy, Danny Johnson and Deshazor Everett have all seen some time on the Redskins roster in the past 12 months after coming to the NFL as undrafted college free agents.
Through a blend of hustle, smart play, good attitude and unexpected athleticism, a few undrafted players fight their way onto NFL rosters every year, in opposition to the huge odds stacked against them.
I have to say, after working with James FitzGerald to prepare profiles on most of the 2019 college free agents on the Redskins roster, my impression is that the Redskins front office exhausted themselves in this year’s draft, and didn’t seem to have much energy left when it came to attracting the top available undrafted free agents when the draft was done.
Last year at this time, when I reviewed the college free agent haul, it felt almost like a second draft: Simmie Cobbs Jr., Cam Sims, J.P. Holtz, Matt Flanagan, Timon Parris, Casey Dunn, Quinn Blanding, and Danny Johnson were the highlight players in a group of 14 UDFAs that seemed to enhance the good work that had been done in the April ‘18 draft.
This season feels, to me, by contrast, like a letdown in terms of what the UDFA class adds to the draft haul. The Redskins have 13 UDFAs on the roster - 7 offensive and 6 defensive players - and my feeling is that this group is, man for man, less skilled than their 2018 counterparts.
Oddly, that may be a positive. Maybe the ‘Skins found it harder to recruit undrafted players because their agents felt they were unlikely to break into a deep roster.
Another possibility is that the Redskins are looking for specific types of players (i.e., fast receivers, good run blockers, DBs with positional flexibility) and are interested in adding players with specific traits to round out the roster.
It could be that my impressions are wrong, and this group of young undrafted players is better than I think they are.
That said, the defensive player I currently have the highest hopes for is B.J. Blunt, a bit of a LB/S hybrid who has the potential to play special teams and develop into an NFL role player at ILB with the Redskins, who can use some depth at the position.
The most surprising thing to me is that the Redskins have three UDFA defensive linemen on the 90-man roster. I would have expected more focus on positions where depth could be more problematic.
In any event, the Redskins have a group of young men that have a chance to make the 53-man roster or the practice squad, contributing to the success of the Washington Redskins and keeping their individual NFL dreams alive.
In this article you will find a list of the defensive undrafted college free agents that are currently on the Redskins roster, and a short précis for each player, with a link to his Hogs Haven UDFA profile.
The mini-profiles below are organized alphabetically by each player’s last name, but here is the list of the 6 players from the defensive side of the ball, organized by position.
- Deion Harris, North Dakota
- JoJo McIntosh, Washington
- B.J. Blunt, McNeese State
- Ryan Bee, Marshall
- Jonathan Bonner, Notre Dame
- Austin Maloata, Austin Peay
Ryan Bee, DE, Marshall
His power moves were impressive. He ripped and push-pulled well. These moves allowed him to fill gaps and make the plays needed to stop the run game. He also plays at a good pad level. He fires out of his stance low and delivers a blow to the blocker.
Unfortunately, his weaknesses far outweigh his strengths.
I watched the Virginia Tech game because that was the strongest program he played against. He got manhandled by the stronger offensive lineman the entire game. He was driven 4-5 yards down the field multiple times and made irrelevant.
He doesn’t appear NFL ready at all.
How would he fit with the Redskins?
I don’t see the logic in signing Ryan Bee. I do not see any chance of him making the team, especially as a member of the defensive line - a deep position group for the Redskins, where he will have to impress to make the team. The other UDFA defensive linemen, Jo Jo Wicker and Jonathan Bonner, have a better chance of making the team than Bee does.
I don’t see a scenario where Ryan Bee makes the team. He just isn’t good enough.
B.J. Blunt, LB/S, McNeese State
The Cardinals Head Coach [in 2014], Bruce Arians, fit [Deone Bucannon] into their defensive scheme as a hybrid Linebacker/Safety. Bucannon had early success in this role and other teams quickly took notice. Since the NFL is a copycat league, other teams followed suit and attempted to find their own Moneybacker.
The Redskins have made two such attempts. First they spent a second round pick in 2016 on Sua Cravens (ya, that didn’t work); and then they turned around the very next year and used a seventh round pick on Josh Harvey-Clemons, so there is evidence that this is a position of interest for Washington.
While Harvey-Clemons has been serviceable in spot duties on defense and special teams, he has had a hard time getting onto the field in his first couple of seasons.
Blunt is this same type of Moneybacker-type player who could be a special teams star sooner rather than later. He has all the physical tools and tenacity to be just that.
I think by adding Blunt, the team would be looking to either press Harvey-Clemons to improve or move on from him altogether.
BJ Blunt is a good all-around player. He played special teams, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and safety in college.
He did play in the FCS and NJCAA, so his production might be exaggerated due to playing against lower level competition.
He will play inside linebacker with the Redskins because he isn’t fast enough to play safety in the NFL; I believe it’s why he was forced to change position at McNeese State.
However, his high motor, vision, and linebacker mentality will make him a candidate for a backup linebacker role. Blunt played a lot of special teams in college and that is important for a UDFA trying to make the team.
I predict that he will be a special teams contributor and a role player on defense with a lot of growth potential.
Jonathan Bonner, DL, Notre Dame
There are reasons why this player from a top college program went undrafted.
He loses too much ground against the down block because he doesn’t move his feet to lose as little ground as possible.
Also, he is not a pass rush threat. It just is not part of his game, and NFL teams are expecting interior defensive lineman to participate in the pass rush more and more. He does have a swim move and a rip move, but he often finds himself out of position when he uses them.
Another issue is that Bonner makes the easy move to the backside of the lineman too often. When he does this he is out of the play and the running back runs by him. Coaches will want him to work toward the play and beat the block instead of going around it.
How would he fit with the Redskins?
The Redskins defensive line is already solid. I do not see a spot for Jonathan Bonner on the 53 man roster, and there is little reason — given the Redskins depth at the position — to keep him on the practice squad.
Bonner will have to make a lot of noise in this unit during training camp and the preseason to make the team, and I just don’t see him doing that.
Deion Harris, DB, North Dakota
Deion Harris is a great form tackler. He does not go for shoelace tackles of arm tackles, but wraps people up and drives them into the ground.
He is also strong in press coverage. He uses his strength to stall guys at the line of scrimmage and knock them off their routes.
Harris is also pretty good in both man and zone coverage. He does not excel in one coverage or the other, but he is capable of both.
Of course, there are reasons why the player went undrafted. Harris struggled against FBS talent.
I watched his highlight tape before I watched the Washington game. Just looking at the highlight tape, I thought he had a great game vs. Washington. Then I watch the game tape.
He had a couple of good plays, but he got beat up by the Washington receiving corps for most of the game. In fact, he got burned three times in drives resulting in touchdowns. I was hoping to see a great game out of him here, but I was disappointed.
Harris also struggled to fight off blocks. As good as he was pressing wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, I expected him the fight off blocks better; however, he just seems to get blocked too easily.
Also, Harris doesn’t hustle toward the ball carrier. I was hoping to see him around the ball carrier more often, but, when the tackle was made, he was too often nowhere to be found. He was probably being blocked.
How would he fit with the Redskins?
I do not see a role for Deion Harris on the 53 man roster, although it is possible he could be a practice squad player. Deion Harris has some upside and I can see him developing into a good player, but, again, I don’t think he can make the 53 man roster this year. I don’t think he can beat out anybody currently on the depth chart, however, it may be worth having him on the practice squad to see if he can develop into a good defensive player.
In my opinion, he will be on the practice squad in 2019.
Austin Maloata, DL, Austin Peay
Maloata started three seasons with the Oregon Ducks, but was dismissed from the team following an arrest in 2016. This article describes his “second chance” at Austin Peay:
Maloata, who was 19 at the time, got a call from a teammate about 1 a.m. to come and pick him up. The two argued back and forth before Maloata, who said he “even had a bad gut feeling about driving,” ended up getting behind the wheel.
That decision set off a domino effect of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and poor decisions that turned from simply picking up another teammate to being arrested for driving under the influence, reckless driving and unlawful possession of methamphetamine. He was kicked off Oregon’s team in a matter of eight hours.
Maloata measured a blood-alcohol level at 0.11, above the Oregon legal limit of 0.08, after he was involved in a crash at an intersection near campus, The Oregonian reported. But none of the reports listed that the methamphetamine found in his car was left behind by one of the six passengers Maloata was carrying at the time of the accident, all of whom fled the scene.
“They ended up blowing me up as this dude that did meth,” Maloata said. “No one knew that there was six other people in the car. No one knew the whole story, just thought I was driving around with drugs in my car by myself. No one knew I went to pick someone up. No one knew any of that, so I ended up taking the blame.”
As a young defensive lineman trying to break into the NFL, there are probably few less inviting places than the Redskins, whose defensive line group is probably the deepest and youngest on the team.
Beyond that, Maloata may not even be the best developmental prospect in camp. Pro Football Network watched tape on the Redskins UDFAs and rated defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner from Notre Dame as the better prospect, saying that Maloata was too small to play NT and not athletic enough to play on the outside.
All in all, Maloata seems to be smallish for a defensive lineman at 283 pounds; he seems not to have impressed with what he put on film, and he has character concerns that date back to the 2016 season. Given the Redskins depth at defensive line, Austin Maloata looks like the longest of long shots to make the Redskins team.
JoJo McIntosh, S, Washington
JoJo McIntosh is a hard hitter, and he uses that hitting ability to knock the ball out of the receiver’s hands and make an impact in the game
He is strong and is able to fight off blocks. He congests the second level so the ball carrier has fewer places to run.
Also, Mcintosh closes in on the tackle after the reception well. He’s able to anticipate a reception and make the tackle before the receiver gets too many yards after the catch.
However, JoJo tends to go for the big hit over the sure tackles; this over aggression causes him to miss some tackles, and the same over aggression also causes him to over pursue and run straight past ball carriers.
Despite being a big hitter he is an inconsistent tackler. At times he tackles too high, doesn’t wrap, or puts his head down. He missed quite a few tackles because of poor fundamentals.
I also do not think he is good enough at coverage to play free safety in the NFL. He is not very agile and he played very few reps in man coverage.
How would he fit with the Redskins?
JoJo McIntosh can make the team if he shows enough improvement in the offseason, but that is partly because the Redskins are missing depth at safety and nobody is really sure who will start in that positon right now. For that reason alone, JoJo McIntosh has a chance to make the roster. However, I do not think he possesses the coverage ability to play free safety at the NFL. He appears to be more of a special teams player and backup at the position.
In my opinion, JoJo McIntosh will be cut during camp or the preseason, though because of the team needs at the position, he seems like a candidate for the practice squad.
Which DEFENSIVE UDFA currently on the 90-man roster are you most excited about?
This poll is closed
DB Deion Harris, North Dakota
DB JoJo McIntosh, Washington
LB B.J. Blunt, McNeese State
DL Ryan Bee, Marshall
DL Jonathan Bonner, Notre Dame
DL Austin Maloata, Austin Peay